Signup for a folk alley account

Video Premiere: Parsonsfield, "Stronger"

July 26, 2016

by Kelly McCartney (@theKELword) for

Parsonsfield_Press ps resize.jpgA lot of string bands like to talk about how they are innovating, but Parsonsfield actually delivers on that promise. Not only does their sound kick out the windows of what most people think of folk and bluegrass, but their new video raises a flag for the millennial generation. In it, a couple texts the lyrics of the song "Stronger" back and forth, as if in a dialogue.

The on-point simplicity of the opening lines sets the stage: "When you were mine and I was yours, when both of our keys opened up the same door, there was love in our hearts, in our clothes on the floor," Chris Freeman sings over a gently picked guitar, adding, "Love used to be fun. It became such a chore." From there, the track builds in the typically fierce Parsonsfield fashion.

Sometimes, the breeze whispers a message of meaning, quiet and true. And, sometimes, the barn needs to be burned to the ground in order to get the point across. On "Stronger" (found on their upcoming release Blooming Through the Black) Parsonsfield takes both tacks to deliver their dispatch... and one helluva song.


Blooming Through the Black will be released via Signature Sounds on September 9th.

Upcoming Tour Dates

Posted by Linda Fahey at 8:59 AM

PLAYLIST: Folk Alley nationally syndicated radio show #160721

July 24, 2016

Thumbnail image for Folk-Alley-Logo_medium.jpgPLAYLIST: Folk Alley nationally syndicated radio show #160721. Aired between July 22 - July 28, 2016. Hosted by Elena See

This episode (#160721) is a rebroadcast of a show first heard in July of 2015 featuring our in-studio Folk Alley Session with Amy Helm & Handsome Strangers.

Artist - Title - Album - Label

(Hour ONE)

Mavis Staples - Fight - Your Good Fortune (EP) - ANTI

Son Little - The River - The River (Single) - Anti

The Earnest Lovers - San Andeas' Fault - Sing Sad Songs (EP) - Elko

Norman Blake - Savannah Rag - Wood, Wire & Words - Plectrofone

Bob Dylan - Someday Baby - Tell Tale Signs - Columbia

Amy Helm & the Handsome Strangers (in-studio) - Sky's Falling - Folk Alley in-studio session - Folk Alley/WKSU exclusive

Amy Helm & the Handsome Strangers (in-studio) - Deep Water - Folk Alley in-studio session - Folk Alley/WKSU exclusive

Amy Helm & the Handsome Strangers (in-studio) - Rescue Me - Amy Helm & the Handsome Strangers (in-studio) - Folk Alley in-studio session - Folk Alley/WKSU exclusive

Kacey Musgraves - Somebody To Love - Pageant Material - Mercury Nashville

Jefferson Airplane - Embryonic Journey - Surrealistic Pillow - RCA/BMG

Charlie Parr - Delia - Stumpjumper - Red House

Patty Griffin - Love Throw a Line - Impossible Dream - ATO/BMG

Nick Drake - Which Will - Pink Moon - Hannibal

(Hour TWO)

John Hartford - Gum Tree Canoe - Gum Tree Canoe - FlyingFish

Black Prairie - For the Love of John Hartford - A Tear In the Eye Is A Wound In the Heart - Sugar Hill

Robert Earl Keen - Steam Powered Aeroplane - Happy Prisoner: The Bluegrass Sessions - Dualtone

Rod Picott - Elbow Grease - Fortune - Welding Rod

Kasey Chambers - Heaven or Hell - Bittersweet - Sugar Hill

Brindl - Just What I Needed - Love It Up - Brindl

Maria Muldaur - Somebody Was Watching Over Me - I'm A Woman - ShoutFact.

Hot Rize - Clary Mae - When I'm Free - Ten In Hand

Tim O'Brien - I've Endured - Traveler - Sugar Hill

Old Man Luedecke - Wait A While - Domestic Eccentric - True North

Samantha Crain - Kathleen - Under Branch & Thorn & Tree - Ramseur Records (Thirty

Kaia Kater - Valley Forge - Sorrow Bound - Kingswood

The Decemberists - The Wrong Year - What A Terrible World, What A Beautiful World - Capitol

The Steeldrivers - Long Way Down - The Muscle Shoals Recordings - Rounder

The Honey Dewdrops - Lowlands - Tangled Country - The Honey Dewdrops

Folk Alley's weekly, syndicated radio show, hosted by Elena See, is produced by WKSU (NPR-affiliate in Kent, OH). The show is available for free to stations via or directly from WKSU via FTP for non-PRX members. Stations may air the show as either a one-, or two-hour program. The Folk Alley Radio Show is presently carried by approximately 50 stations nationally. Folk Alley also presents a 24/7 hosted Internet channel available at, TuneIn, iTunes and more. :: for more information contact Linda Fahey at 518-354-8077:

Posted by Linda Fahey at 11:38 PM

Album Review: Lori McKenna, 'The Bird & The Rifle

July 21, 2016

by Kelly McCartney (@theKELword) for

Lori McKenna 300x300 The Bird & the Rifle copy.jpgWhen talents as enormous as Lori McKenna and Dave Cobb come together in a studio, the resulting record is bound to be special. Exhibit A: The Bird & The Rifle. Both music-makers have been riding high lately, with hit records and Grammy Awards to spare. But, if any two folks ever deserved such accolades, it's these two.

The secret to McKenna's success is that she understands that life -- and, therefore, art -- is all about the details. The real stuff happens in the space between the breaths, the calm between the storms, and the quiet between the words. That's where she lives (along with her husband and five children) so it's also where she creates. In McKenna's hands, the often arduous daily toil gets sculpted into magnificent vignettes.

Even when McKenna takes a hard look at long-term commitment, as she does so wondrously in the album's opener, "Wreck You," she makes the lack of romanticism somehow romantic. And Cobb's intuitive production -- the gently soaring strings, in particular -- lets the piece lean over and peer into the abyss of what a collapsing marriage can be, while still keeping it from falling into any sort of despair. The story's resolution is left for another day, but the listener might easily imagine that the singer's resolve will get the couple through the darkness and back to the light.

That same matter-of-fact handling works to great effect as McKenna prattles off the poignant check-list that is "Humble and Kind." With another singer -- let's say Tim McGraw, just for argument's sake -- the tune could go from sentimental to saccharin in four bars flat. But McKenna packs the punch of several decades as a mother and each line was written for one of her kids, so her grasp of the material is steeped in authenticity.

Other highlights include the breezy vibe of "We Were Cool," the Mary Chapin Carpenter feel of "All These Things," the thoughtful sway of "Old Men Young Women," and the telling shuffle of "Giving Up on Your Hometown." Really, though, there's nary a missed shot anywhere in the set.


'The Bird & the Rifle' is out on July 29 via CN Records/Thirty Tigers and available now for pre-order at iTunes and

Upcoming tour dates

Posted by Linda Fahey at 3:32 PM

PLAYLIST: Folk Alley nationally syndicated radio show #160714

July 18, 2016

Thumbnail image for Folk-Alley-Logo_medium.jpgPLAYLIST: Folk Alley nationally syndicated radio show #160714. Aired between July 15 - July 21, 2016. Hosted by Elena See

Artist - Title - Album - Label

(Hour One)

Sara Watkins - Say So - Young In All The Wrong Ways - New West

Bela Fleck - Katmandu - Tales From An Acoustic Planet Volume 2 - Warner Bros

Sam Bush (w/ Allison Krauss) - Lefty's Song - Storyman - Sugar Hill

Bryan Sutton - Walkin' Across This Land - The More I Learn - Sugar Hill

The Earls of Leicester - The Train That Carried My Girl From Town - Rattle & Roar - Rounder

John Gorka - I Know - Before Beginning: The Unreleased I Know - Nashville, 1985 - Red House Records

John Gorka - I Saw A Stranger With Your Hair - Before Beginning: The Unreleased I Know - Nashville, 1985 - Red House Records

Lula Wiles - Traveling On - Lula Wiles - Lula Wiles

Robert Earl Keen - The Traveling Storm - What I Really Mean - Koch

Emmylou Harris & Rodney Crowell - The Traveling Kind - The Traveling Kind - Nonesuch Records

Lori McKenna - The Bird & The Rifle - The Bird & The Rifle - CN Records/Thirty Tigers

Leo Kottke - The Driving of the Year Nail - 6 and 12 String Guitar - Takoma

David Francey - Big Texas Moon - Empty Train - Laker Music

Sarah Jarosz - Jaqueline - Undercurrent - Sugar Hill

The Milk Carton Kids - Snake Eyes - The Ash & Clay -Anti

(Hour Two)

Miss Tess - Little Lola - Baby, We All Know - Miss Tess Music

Fiddle & Banjo (Karrnel Sawitsky & Daniel Koulack) - Lullaby - Fiddle & Banjo Tunes From North, Songs From The South - Sawitsky & Koulack

The Alt - What Put The Blood - The Alt - Under The Arch

Grant Dermody - So Sorry To Leave You - Sun Might Shine On Me - Grant Dermody

The Honeycutters - Let's Get Drunk - On The Ropes - Organic Records

Neko Case, kd lang, and Laura Veirs - Georgia Stars - case/lang/veirs - Anti/Epitaph

Hurray For The Riff Raff - Little Black Star - Look Out Mama - Born To Win

Nick Drake - Hanging On A Star - Made to Love Magic - Island

Linda Ronstadt/Ann Savoy - Walk Away Renee - Adiue False Heart - Vanguard

Linda Ronstadt/Ann Savoy - Adiue False Heart - Adiue False Heart - Vanguard

Mountain Heart - I Can't Get Over You - Blue Skies - Compass

Darrell Scott - Alton Air - A Crooked Road - Full Light

Rob Ickes & Trey Hensley - Friend of the Devil - The Country Blues.

Steve Martin & Edie Brickell - Another Round - So Familiar - Rounder/Compass

Paul Simon - In A Parade - Stranger to Stranger - Concord

Folk Alley's weekly, syndicated radio show, hosted by Elena See, is produced by WKSU (NPR-affiliate in Kent, OH). The show is available for free to stations via or directly from WKSU via FTP for non-PRX members. Stations may air the show as either a one-, or two-hour program. The Folk Alley Radio Show is presently carried by approximately 50 stations nationally. Folk Alley also presents a 24/7 hosted Internet channel available at, TuneIn, iTunes and more. :: for more information contact Linda Fahey at 518-354-8077:

Posted by Linda Fahey at 4:39 PM

Hear It First: John Gorka, 'Before Beginning: The Unreleased 'I Know' - Nashville, 1985'

July 15, 2016

by Kelly McCartney (@theKELword) for

Gorka Before Beginning.jpgIt's a fascinating exercise to step back in time some 31 years to a now-iconic artist's humble beginnings. But such is the case with John Gorka's "new" release -- Before Beginning: The Unreleased I Know -- which collects the 1985 recordings Gorka did over the course of five days in Nashville at Cowboy Jack Clements' studio with producer Jim Rooney. At Nanci Griffith's suggestion, the 25-year-old folkie ventured into his first sessions with some of the top players in Music City. The resulting work was never released, and Gorka would spend another two years making what would become his debut, I Know, which includes nine of the same songs.

The original record featured Kenny Malone on drums/percussion, Dave Pomeroy on bass, Jay Patten on saxophone, Mike Dugan on electric guitar, Ralph Vitello and Biff Watson on keyboards, Stuart Duncan on fiddle and mandolin, and Shawn Colvin and Lucy Kaplansky on backing vocals.

Looking back from here, Gorka confesses, "I can only say that I was finding my way. I had played solo live almost exclusively and I had not made an album or ever done a studio recording with other players. I guess I just didn't know what I wanted to hear. I know now that there is more than one right way to present a song. In that way songs are bigger than any one recording of a song. It was good. It just wasn't the good I wanted at the time."


Before Beginning: The Unreleased 'I Know' will be out on July 22 via Red House Records and is available for pre-order at iTunes and at

Upcoming Tour Dates

Posted by Linda Fahey at 9:10 AM

Album Review: Ana Egge & the Sentimentals, 'Say That Now'

July 13, 2016

by Kelly McCartney (@theKELword) for

AnaEgge_400_SayThatNow_albumcover-copy copy.jpgAna Egge is no stranger to collaboration. On her last outing, 2015's 'Bright Shadow,' she partnered with the Stray Birds. On her new set, 'Say That Now,' she nabbed The Sentimentals, a folk-rock band from Denmark. The Danes provide a wonderfully complementary mooring for Egge's buoyant voice, whether they're working through the bluesy rock of "Take Off My Dress" and "Spider" or the folkish country of "Promises to Break" and "Still Waters Run Deep."

There's a lot to love about this record, and there's also a good bit to think about. "He's a Killer Now" takes the perspective of the 2015 Copenhagen terrorist's mother in the wake of his death and killing of two others. Further into the set, "Away We Go" reflects on the 2014 killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, by a police officer. And she's not pulling any punches: "You're a real-life villain. Yeah, you definitely killed him. Then you took everything that he was and broke it on the TV channel. Justice won't do it, if you're not born into it. You can put up your hands behind your back upon the ground and shut your mouth."

In an era when so many folk singers focus more on the personal than the political, Egge has tied the two strands together in ways that recall Joan Baez from the past and Hurray for the Riff Raff from the present. That, alone, is worth supporting, but Say That Now offers even more.

'Say That Now' is available at iTunes and CD Baby.

Upcoming Tour Dates

Posted by Linda Fahey at 9:30 AM

Video Premiere: Lula Wiles, "Traveling On"

July 6, 2016

300 sq Lula Wiles.jpgAll the members of Lula Wiles - Isa Burke, Ellie Buckland, and Mali Obomsawin - grew up in Maine in musical families, and they began playing music together as kids at Maine Fiddle Camp. One by one, they each found their way to Boston to study at Berklee College of Music. Isa and Ellie (both on vocals, fiddle, and guitar) began performing as a duo in April 2013, and Lula Wiles was born when Mali (bass, vocals) joined the band a year later.

Their effervescent vocal harmonies, musical chemistry and evocative arrangements create a dynamic and spirited live show as they pass around instruments and frontwoman duties with style and ease.

As part of Beehive Production's 'Ear To the Ground' mini-documentary style video series, Lula Wiles recently paid a visit to Saranac Lake, NY for a session taping featuring songs from their self-titled debut album (available here) released in May, 2016.

Lula Wiles - Traveling On from Beehive Productions on Vimeo.

Posted by Linda Fahey at 9:55 PM

A Q & A with Sarah Jarosz

by Kelly McCartney (@theKELword) for

275 squ Sarah Jarosz pr2016 500 copy.jpgThe talent that Sarah Jarosz wields is truly something to behold. Like some of her peers -- Sierra Hull, Parker Millsap, Mipso, and others -- the width and depth of what she has done and will yet do is a little bit mind-boggling. And her gorgeous new album, Undercurrent, warrants even further acclaim as it plumbs depths not previously explored by the roots music phenom.

Kelly McCartney: The new record has been cited by critics as being a bit darker, perhaps a bit heartier, than records past. Is that a fair estimation? Why or why not?

Sarah Jarosz: Yes, I would say that is a fair estimation. Even though this is my fourth record, it feels like there were a lot of firsts for me, in terms of the process of writing and recording this time around. For one, it's the first record I've made while not also simultaneously being in high school or college. It's the first record I've made since moving to New York City. And it's the first record of mine that doesn't have any covers on it. The fact that it's all original music makes it feel like the most personal album I've made so far.

I went into the studio with this batch of songs wanting to capture them in as sparse of a manner as we could, and to me the record feels like it's anchored around the four solo performances throughout. A lot of the imagery on the record is inspired by my time in New York City, but also there are themes of water throughout. This sense of the tide changing, feeling one way and then another, grappling with the desire to look back but ultimately wanting to look forward. There's a darkness in there, for sure, but I think the record also contains a sense of hopefulness in trying to push through those ever-changing feelings.

Considering the rave reviews 'Bones' received, what kinds of pressure -- internal or external -- did you feel going into the making of this record?

After touring the music from Build Me Up from Bones for a couple of years, it became apparent that I needed to have the chance to step away from my own project for a bit and get involved in some really exciting collaborations. I did a collaborative tour with the Milk Carton Kids at the end of 2014. Singing three-part harmonies with those guys every night was quite the transcendent experience.

From there, I was honored to get to perform on A Prairie Home Companion quite often, which eventually led to being invited to sing on Garrison's America the Beautiful tour which lasted a whole month last August. Getting to work with Garrison in that close proximity for an entire month was priceless. Our shows on that tour would often be three-plus hours long, and they were never the same twice. He was constantly writing and revising and trying to make things better, and I was just ultra inspired by that.

And on top of that, I started a new band with Sara Watkins and Aoife O'Donovan called I'm With Her which has truly been a joy to dive into and write and perform with those women, whom I just hold in the highest regard. All of those collaborations allowed me to approach my own music in a refreshed, inspired way. Especially with Sara and Aoife, having the opportunity to suddenly be a team member, an equal player in a band, really pushed me as a singer, and I think made me a better listener on stage and in the writing and arranging process.

So, going into this album, I didn't really feel pressure, I just felt renewed with this new-found sense of inspiration from having the opportunity to take a step away and think, "What is it I really want to write about?!" With school, my schedule hadn't really allowed for that kind of full-time level of attention to my music, and I think because I was able to have that, I felt more present for the making of this record than ever before.

Which song, to you, is the head of the set and which one the heart?

That's a tough one... hard to narrow it down to just two because this whole record really feels like one concise statement to me. But, I suppose that "House of Mercy" would have to be the head and "Jacqueline" would be the heart. "House of Mercy" was a co-write with Jedd Hughes, who will now be joining me on the road to play guitar and sing harmony, which I couldn't be more thrilled about! There's a darkness in that song -- a headstrong sensibility throughout. "Jacqueline" is inspired by my time spent walking around the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir in Central Park. I was reading about her and, on the Central Park website, it says that that was the last place she was ever seen in public before she passed away. I was really inspired by that image of her, combined with all of my time spent by the water there. At the end of the song, there's a glimmer of hope: "Maybe in a little while I'll feel alright." To me, that felt like the appropriate sentiment to end on.

What did attending the New England Conservatory of Music bring to your work?

NEC really gave me the chance to expand my musical palette. I listened to a lot of music growing up, but hadn't really dipped my toes into most things jazz-oriented or world music-leaning. I had done a little bit of that at the Mandolin Symposium, studying Choro mandolin songs with Mike Marshall and Irish tunes with Tim O'Brien, but that only made me more curious to want to learn new things.

I think there was also this feeling, after high school, of wanting something to be a bridge between high school and life, and not necessarily immediately hit the road full-time. So, I decided to head to Boston, where, even aside from NEC, there was, and still is, a thriving music scene. When I wasn't in school learning Abbey Lincoln tunes with Ran Blake or writing a 16th-century counterpoint line, I was writing music or traveling to play a gig or record. In retrospect, it was a lot on my plate at one time, but I'm so thankful for it all, and I think I came away from it with a more assured sense of my own work and a deeper musical pool to swim around in.


'Undercurrent' is out now on Sugar Hill Records and available at iTunes and

Upcoming Tour Dates

Posted by Linda Fahey at 7:10 PM

A Q & A with Sean Watkins

by Kelly McCartney (@theKELword) for

300 sq SEAN-WATKINS-PRESS-PHOTO-449x303 copy 2.jpgMost folks in the roots music world are very familiar with Sean Watkins, if not through his years as one-third of Nickel Creek (alongside Chris Thile and his sister Sara) or his ongoing Watkins Family Hour project, then certainly through his solo records. The guitarist/singer/songwriter always seems to have new music pouring out. His latest solo set, What to Fear, adds yet another notch to his artistic belt. On it, he explores stories and themes previously uncharted in his career, and he does so with the same deft skill that he brings to all of his work.

Kelly McCartney: You sketch stories from a number of different characters on this album. What's your process for stepping out of yourself and into another?

Sean Watkins: It's always fun writing from another perspective. I don't know that I have a process; they just kind of tumble out that way sometimes. I think it's healthy to let go of all your own feelings, issues, and emotions every now and then and try to take on someone else's. I tend to write autobiographically, so lyrics like those in "What to Fear" and "I Am What You Want" give me a bit of a thrill and are really fun to sing.

Alternately, mining a song from a phrase, like you did with "Last Time for Everything," does that tap into a different approach?

Yeah, I've been writing song titles first a lot lately. It's fun to go about constructing a song in reverse order of what is typically done. I heard someone use that phrase -- "There's a last time for everything" -- and thought to myself, "Surely that phrase must have made its way into a (probably) cheesy sentimental country ballad." But upon some inspection, I didn't find much, so I started working on it. But I wanted to take it the opposite way of sad sentimentality and endings stuff. I wanted to celebrate the good endings and last times.

What does a solo record feed in you creatively that Family Hour, Nickel Creek, and your various other projects don't?

It's healthy and constructive to stand on your own two feet in art as in life. It's good because it reminds you who you are and lets the people around you know where you're at, too. And every time I've gone back into a band situation from a solo situation, it's always felt better because of the personal work I've done.

You've had record releases three years in a row now, plus touring. Is this an especially prolific, energized time for you? What would you do with a whole year off?

It doesn't feel prolific so much as it feels like I'm finally where I should be, creatively. I don't want to spread myself too thin, but I have a lot to say and many musical experiments on my list of things to try. I'm going to keep up this pace, whatever that means. I wouldn't know what to do with a year off. That sounds like hell to me. Ha!

Did you have an artistic vision going into the studio that you, then, recruited bassist Mike Elizondo and drummer Matt Chamberlain plus the Bee Eaters to fulfill? Or was it more collaborative once you got in the room with them?

I had two very different visions of what this record could be, going into making it. One was to make the whole record with the Bee Eaters, an amazing string band from Northern California whom I love playing with. The other was to do it with the rhythm section of Matt Chamberlain on drums and Mike Elizondo on bass. Individually, they are both huge heroes of mine and, playing together, they are just insane.

So I picked four songs that I felt would represent the whole album and recorded them in both scenarios. After that, I overdubbed the Bee Eaters onto the versions I did with Mike and Matt. The combined version ended up being the best, and that vibe and aesthetic ended up shaping how I made the rest of the record.


Sean Watkins' 'What To Fear' is out now on Family Hour Records and is available at iTunes and

Upcoming Tour Dates

Posted by Linda Fahey at 6:28 PM

Support Folk Alley During Our Spring Fund Drive!


Recent Topics



April 2018
Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
1 2 3 4 5 6 7
8 9 10 11 12 13 14
15 16 17 18 19 20 21
22 23 24 25 26 27 28
29 30               

April 2018

March 2018

February 2018

January 2018

December 2017

November 2017

October 2017

September 2017

August 2017

July 2017

May 2017

April 2017

March 2017

February 2017

January 2017

December 2016

November 2016

October 2016

September 2016

August 2016

July 2016

May 2016

April 2016

March 2016

February 2016

January 2016

December 2015

November 2015

October 2015

September 2015

August 2015

July 2015

June 2015

May 2015

April 2015

March 2015

February 2015

January 2015

December 2014

October 2014

September 2014

August 2014

July 2014

June 2014

April 2014

March 2014

February 2014

January 2014

December 2013

November 2013

October 2013

September 2013

August 2013

July 2013

June 2013

May 2013

April 2013

March 2013

February 2013

December 2012

November 2012

October 2012

September 2012

August 2012

July 2012

June 2012

May 2012

April 2012

March 2012

February 2012

January 2012

December 2011

November 2011

October 2011

September 2011

August 2011

July 2011

June 2011

May 2011

April 2011

March 2011

February 2011

January 2011

December 2010

November 2010

October 2010

September 2010

August 2010

July 2010

May 2010

April 2010

March 2010

February 2010

January 2010

December 2009

November 2009

October 2009

September 2009

August 2009

July 2009

June 2009

May 2009

April 2009

March 2009

February 2009

January 2009

December 2008

November 2008

October 2008

September 2008

August 2008

July 2008

June 2008

May 2008

April 2008

March 2008

February 2008

January 2008

December 2007

November 2007

October 2007

September 2007

August 2007

July 2007

June 2007

May 2007

April 2007

March 2007

February 2007

January 2007

December 2006

November 2006

October 2006

September 2006

August 2006

July 2006

June 2006

May 2006

April 2006

March 2006

February 2006

January 2006

December 2005

November 2005

October 2005

September 2005

August 2005

July 2005

June 2005

May 2005

April 2005

March 2005

February 2005

January 2005

December 2004

November 2004

October 2004

September 2004

August 2004

July 2004

June 2004

May 2004

April 2004

March 2004

February 2004

January 2004

December 2003

November 2003

October 2003

September 2003

August 2003